After-Hours Support for Online Retailers: How Customer Support AI Enables 24/7 Customer Assistance

By Machielle Thomas

Today’s retail world operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Consumers buy from online retailers at all hours of the day and night, irrespective of their time zone and the retailer’s.

The impact of that extends far beyond sales and fulfillment — customers expect support 24/7, too. According to Zendesk data, almost half of customers surveyed mark 24/7 support as a key part of “good customer service.”

But providing high-quality after-hours customer support isn’t easy — or cheap! That’s why more and more companies are turning to customer support AI.

After-Hours Retail Support is a Must-Have

24/7 support is rapidly becoming table stakes, and ecommerce and online retail lead the charge. Two things are driving that:

  • Consumers expect after-hours support from businesses both big and small
  • Online retailers are more likely to serve customers across many time zones

Thanks to these trends, providing customers with high-quality support at all hours is a crucial component of offering what today’s consumers consider a good customer service experience.

And that experience is key to unlocking repeat purchases, higher customer satisfaction, and increased customer loyalty.

To be frank: retailers that fail to meet customers’ support expectations risk losing those customers to competitors who do.

The challenge online retailers face is two-fold: offering after-hours support that is both cost-effective and provides a good (and consistent) customer experience. Self-service support options like knowledge bases and help centers are a start, but customers may also need a more high-touch solution.

That’s where retailers turn to AI-powered support, which enables them to provide a continuously high-quality support experience to customers, thereby improving customer satisfaction and driving repeat purchases.

Customer Support AI Can Help

The trouble with building a customer support department that can serve customers 24 hours a day is that humans can’t work all day and night. Staffing a support team across multiple time zones and throughout the day requires staffing at least 2–3 shifts. That means hiring and training more agents and budgeting for more salaries.

From both a financial and time perspective, that just isn’t practical for many online businesses.

An AI support chatbot, equipped with conversational AI, isn’t subject to those limitations.

AI is always available — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — to provide real-time support whenever customers need it. That means retailers can staff fewer agents (or none at all) after-hours, without harming the customer experience.

Many companies already deploy customer support chatbots to handle simple, frequently asked customer queries. Retail businesses, in particular, often see quite a few low-hanging fruit support inquiries (like questions about order statuses, returns processes, and product details).

However, standard chatbots often fail to provide the level of support customers are looking for. That means they end up escalating to human agents anyway — or, worse, churning.

Newer AI-powered conversational support offers a higher level of support and a more human-like experience for customers, helping to cut escalations and enabling retailers to offer high-quality support after hours.

A capable AI-powered solution Forethought’s AI Agent can competently handle more complex cases — in real-time, at any hour. That means you can offer quality customer help 24/7, without having a fully-staffed team on call after-hours.

Spoonflower Uses Human-Centered AI to Scale After-Hours Support

Before implementing Forethought, Spoonflower — an eCommerce wallpaper, home decor, and fabric marketplace — offered customer support across email, voice message, and live chat. While data shows that customers prefer channels like live chat, staffing constraints meant the Spoonflower team often had to shut off live chat support — including after-hours.

Spoonflower turned to Forethought and our suite of generative AI and automation products to help scale their support operation. The team deployed the Solve widget on their website, which allows their customers to access high-quality chat support at any time of day.

Since implementing Solve, Spoonflower’s live chat has scored a 59% self-service rate. The chat function has resolved and automated over 53,000 tickets and served more than 90,000 Spoonflower customers.

Provide High-Quality After-Hours Retail Support With Customer Support AI

Here at Forethought, we designed our generative AI and automation platform to serve and delight customers — not just deflect their questions or add friction to the support process.

With Solve, online retailers and eCommerce teams can:

  • Automatically resolve simple cases (like questions about stock and inventory or product warranties) instantaneously, no matter the time zone or time of day.
  • Guide customers with more complex cases (like returns and refunds, delivery detail changes, or order tracking) to self-service options.
  • Offer high-quality customer assistance round-the-clock — without fully staffing 3+ shifts.

Our new Autoflows solution for Solve takes this to the next level, enabling you to offer truly intelligent and natural conversations between customers and AI, without needing a live agent to babysit.

Check out the demo here to learn more about Autoflows — or, read more about Forethought’s customer support AI for eCommerce and retail businesses.

Dive in.

Interested in generative AI for customer support? Check out this guide to learn about the 3 key pillars you need to get started.

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